Short report: “Cresto” Zinnias

Zinnia Cresto  This is the first year I’ve grown the “Cresto” zinnia series, and of course, the variety I chose was “Cresto Orange. ”  The photo above shows the pom-pom center surrounded by a row of petals, the form the “Cresto” zinnia is supposed to have.  Of the fifty I planted, there were 3 with the desired form.  Several more were acceptable, looking like this Zinnia Cresto 2 but by far the majority of orange flowers look like this Zinnia Cresto 3 and are quite small, only about 2″ across, which while disappointing are at least in my color scheme.  Unfortunately, over half the plants have flowers like this (cheery yellow is nice but I have lots of other yellow flowers so don’t need yellow zinnias)  Zinnia yellow  or this (gasp!) deep rose

Zinnia rose or even worse, like this painful

Zinnia red  RED!  So, my carefully planned color scheme screams in places, but it’s too late to begin again, and the butterflies enjoy them all, so I’m just gritting my teeth as I pass.  There are no certainties when growing from seed, but I’m already searching the catalogs for a better variety to grow next year.  How do you handle surprises in the borders?

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Bandits strike again

Remember those lovely clusters of “Polbig” tomatoes? There will be no poundage comparison between “Polbig” and “Defiant” this year. Last night for the second time, raccoons harvested tomatoes in the potager. Of course, they chose the biggest and the ripest, so most of the “Polbig” beauties are gone.

I wouldn’t mind so much if they ate the entire tomato, but most of them are only half-eaten.

They must have been hungry because these were eaten right down to the skins.
Sometimes they even ate the less than ripe ones.
But sometimes they just picked them, took a bite and went on to another one.
And sometimes they just rolled them around the paths to make groupings…for comparison? So, the traps are set again, and we’ll have a good, long wait for more ripe tomatoes! Excuse the format of this post. Somehow I am now stuck using “block” formats, which I hate and am having trouble figuring it out. Is there any way I can go back to the regular style?
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And the winner is

Tomato Polbig & Defiant  “Polbig!”  Yes, for the 4th year, the hands-down best full-sized early tomato is “Polbig.”  The first to ripen was a beautiful 10.5 oz perfect tomato.  It’s on the right in the photo, shown with the ripest of the contender for 2019, “Defiant,” which currently weighs a mere 5 oz.  That beautiful “Polbig” became our first BLT of the season, much later than normal, but after the year we’re having we feel blessed to have any tomatoes.Tomato Polbig  The “Polbig” plants are performing great, with clusters of big (some in this photo are already 12 oz!) tomatoes in varying stages of ripeness.  I counted 12 on this plant alone.  This is a variety for a big, early then done crop, which I like because when they come out, other crops can take their place for the fall garden.  So, if you are looking for an outstanding, reliable even in cold, overly wet, little sunshine weather like we’ve had this year (and remember it won the last three years when one was hot and dry early, and one was even a bit colder) then your search is over.  Get “Polbig!”

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Short Update: Plant World Seeds

hollyhock pink  So, here’s the special YELLOW hollyhock grown from seeds from Plant World Seeds!!!  It’s the first to bloom of dozens, and is much taller than all its fellow seedlings.  I’m hoping it’s a freak, and that all the others will indeed be yellow.  At least it’s a single, and rather pretty….if one likes pink!

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Short reports: PWS

Here’s a quick report, on the seeds from Plant World Seeds that I was so excited to order way back last winter.  Dames Rocket variegated  For a bit about the seeds arrival and the actual packets, see here.

First of all, only about 40% of the seeds germinated despite careful following of instructions.  Now, I realize that when one orders unusual, exotic (at least to me despite 40 years of professional growing) seeds one must expect them to be harder to grow.  Otherwise, they wouldn’t be unusual, would they, if every garden center had them?  So, I was prepared for low results and difficult germination.  There were some good results.  The “Oranges and Lemons” columbine germinated extremely well, and are growing happily in the North Island.  The variegated dames rocket shown above germinated well (as expected for a wild flower) but only two plants are slightly variegated.  However, if they truly bloom white next year, I’ll still be pleased.  I think every yellow hollyhock seed has thrived and one is budded and nearly ready to flower.  The golden penstemon had poor germination, and two truly golden-leaved plants, but I’m thrilled to have them and they are definitely worth the price of the seed packet.  I’ll grow the non-gold ones on to sell next spring at the garden club plant sale.  There is one lonely erigeron, a few peach-leaf bellflowers and lavenders (both with which I’ve had great success in prior years.)  None of the rest of the packets yielded anything.  And, somehow, the lunaria got lost in the shuffle, and was just now planted!

So, my feelings are mixed.  Part of the problem was that “I can grow anything” feeling that overcomes one in the depth of winter, as catalogs and websites lure and feed the desire for something new.  There were no doubt more complicated seed varieties that I could handle during the rush of seeding, and some of the exotic varieties probably were not happy in basement conditions.  I’d give Plant World Seeds another go.  Their prices are reasonable, the number of seeds per packet is acceptable, and their instructions are more detailed than many companies.  Next time I’ll try fewer new things, and try to give them more attention.  Did you try any new companies this year?  What were the results?

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The Garlic harvest

garlic on shed floor  The garlic harvest has been interesting this year.  (The photo shows a very small portion of the garlic harvest, plus some “Red Torpedo” onions curing on the Lady Cottage floor.) After a very long, extremely wet winter with periods of frigid cold without snow cover, I feared the worst as spring began.  However, the garlic tips pushed through the soil about on schedule, and grew well despite our very, very wet spring.  I grow lots more garlic than we can eat, because I love its vertical form in the potager.  I did notice over the very wet growing period that the plants were taller than usual, but with fewer leaves.  There were so very many sunless days, really up until July, that must have impacted growth.  Stems on most plants were not as thick as usual.  Possibly the fertilizer was just washed away, even though I applied side dressings twice.  The scapes were harvested as usual, but before many of the leaves had turned brown, problems were apparent.  With the continuing rains, the garlic was beginning to rot.  There could be no waiting until the majority of the leaves turned brown.  It had to be dug now!  The first bed harvested was “Rosewood,” normally a large, productive variety.  But the harvest was about 1/3 of the plants, and those were very small.  This is the entire “Rosewood” harvest for this year!  Normally, there would be three large braids of 20 bulbs each.  garlic Rosewood  However, in terms of outer wrap layers, it turned out to be about the best!   The next bed dug was “Romanian Red.”  garlic 2 braids  It’s the braid on the right.  You can see that there’s a lot of mud still on the bulbs.  There was no choice but to dig even when it was too muddy for digging.   As much mud as possible was rubbed off the outside and squeezed out of the roots.  Once dry, normally the outer layer would be peeled off so the bulbs are clean and white.  However, this year, if the outer layer is peeled off, there is no protective wrap on the cloves at all!  The braid on the left is “Khobor” which has more layers of wrap, possibly because it was grown in the far north bed, where there was never any standing water around the raised beds.  At least these bulbs are decent sized, not the fist-sized ones of past years, but certainly more than acceptable.  garlic Killarney  The largest bulbs are “Killarney Red,” which was also the most productive again this year.  Unfortunately, they grew in the south beds, which often were surrounded by water, and some have no outer wrap left.  I put those in a basket to use first, and didn’t go to the effort of braiding them.  Some were too rotted and went directly to compost.garlic in gh  “Mary Jane” and “Deerfield Purple” are curently curing in the shade in the greenhouse.  Again, the numbers are down and the size a bit smaller than usual.  Once all the garlic is cleaned and processed into braids or baskets, I’ll weigh the crop.  Right now, I’m just hoping the garlic stays in good shape until planting time in September.  I have no illusions that much of it will store over the entire winter, so there will probably be garlic jelly and 40-garlic chicken in our near future!

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Short Report: Seedless Marigolds

Marigold Zenith planted  You may recall way last winter when we discussed seed orders, that I was excited about trialing “Zenith” Triploid marigolds, which were touted as “Day-neutral, early flowering, 2-3″ flowers, do not produce seed, and therefore needing little deadheading, and exhibit great weather tolerance.”  The photo above shows them soon after they were planted at the edge of the Deck Garden amid some finishing tulip foliage.  They grew very well from seed with nearly 100% germination and produced blooms quickly and often.Marigold Zenith patch  Here’s the same patch.  They filled in nicely after the tulip foliage disappeared, and have bloomed steadily despite 100 degree heat, daily rains, and then a spell without rain.  This photo was taken last evening.

They are really fine as a marigold variety, although the flowers are not 2-3″ across.  BUT they DO produce seed   if not deadheaded just as other marigolds do.  I plan to do a test to see if the seeds actually germinate.  They certainly look viable.  Marigold, Zenith close ugly  My impression is that they are slightly more ugly when they fade than the “Durango” marigolds of similar color, but maybe I am slightly prejudiced.  I do love the “Durango” series, which DO have 2-3″ flowers.

So, my report is that the “Zenith” are okay, but for the extra price ($3.25 for 100 seeds wholesale versus “Durango” $5.20 for 1 million seeds) they are not that special.  They require deadheading just as frequently as all of the other marigold varieties that I grow.  Did you trial anything new and exciting this year?  Did it live up to expectations?  Curious gardeners want to know!

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